What To Wear To A Gentlemen’s Club
Photograph by Ms Lauren Luxenberg
Know your private members’ club dress codes – here’s our guide of the clothes you need to get into the right kind of gentleman’s establishment.
Googling any of London’s storied gentleman’s clubs reveals that their dress codes are the subject of intense interest. In a world that’s never been so casual these grand establishments are among the few places where a man remains in serious danger of being repelled at the door for a sartorial infringement. Rest assured, American friends – we’re not talking about the… other… “Las Vegas” type of gentlemen’s club. No, the British variety are a bit like private aristocratic houses, with grand dining rooms, bars, libraries and lounges. What separates them from normal restaurants and bars is that they are, in essence, an extension of their members’ homes. These are places where men will eat, drink, read the paper or have a nap. However, if the old single-sex clubs persist (think White’s, Boodle’s, Pratt’s), there’s long been a place for more celebratory, jovial places, the archetype of which is Mr PG Wodehouse’s fictional Drones Club, as frequented by his comic creation Bertie Wooster. If the appeal of the classic clubs is their constancy then the allure of the livelier spots is their relevance. This point is well made by the differences between their dress codes.
White’s, 37 St James’s Street, SW1
The longevity of White’s – established in 1693 by Mr Francesco Bianco – must be credited to its resilience in the face of great social change, rather than its willingness to adapt. Well-known members include HRH The Prince of Wales (who had his 1981 stag night at White’s) and Mr David Cameron, former UK prime minister; the dress code is formal. Should a member invite you to lunch or dinner, nothing less than a dark suit, shirt, tie and well-polished leather shoes will suffice. Ermenegildo Zegna’s navy suit is both conservative and contemporary, the white shirt and silk tie strike a note of European sophistication, and the John Lobb shoes convey a very British aesthetic.
The Arts Club, 40 Dover Street. W1
If the Arts Club’s Victorian origins (Mr Charles Dickens was a member) suggest it is an austere, high-minded establishment, first-time visitors will be in for a pleasant surprise. It’s a luxurious, glamorous palace of sophisticated pleasure on Mayfair’s hip Dover Street. The members include celebrated actors, musicians and the higher echelons of the UK creative industries, and the dress code is appropriately accommodating. However, smart or casual, guests are expected to make an effort, and this slim, navy-blue Acne Studios suit is just the right kind of effort. By wearing it over Thom Sweeney’s taupe rollneck, rather than a shirt, any formal associations are jettisoned in favour of a fashionable look and a comfortable feel. Brown slip-on shoes complete the picture.
Mark’s Club, 46 Charles Street. W1
In spirit, Mark’s Club – which was founded by Mr Mark Birley in 1973 – sits somewhere between White’s and The Arts Club. Its virtues include first-class food and wine (which is best enjoyed on the outdoor terrace on sunny days); the discretion of its location inside a Mayfair townhouse; the interior design newly updated by Mr Tino Zervudachi; and the intelligent way the management, under director Mr Darius Namdar, offers members events that range from visits by revered Parisian tailors Cifonelli to art talks by Sotheby’s. The nuanced dress code encourages suits but is also happy to accept an elegant blazer, white shirt, neat chinos and sleek loafers.